Over 500 containers lost at sea after ship encounters violent weather, waves

A large shipping freighter lost over 500 containers at sea when it was bombarded by 30-foot waves and 60-knot winds off the Atlantic coast of Europe. The Svendborg, owned by The Maersk Group, was traveling from Rotterdam, Netherlands, to Sri Lanka via the Suez Canal. It is currently docked at the Bay of Biscay, where its owners are trying to calculate the total damage and losses.

There is no current requirement by any international organizations for ships to declare losses at sea, so no one is entirely sure how often such incidents take place. However, CNN reports that The Through Transport Club, a shipping insurance company, estimates that about 2000 containers are lost every year.

Many environmental groups are concerned that these losses can have a traumatic impact on wildlife populations, not to mention fishing vessels and other boats. Containers typically sink as soon as they hit the water, but Robin des Bois, a French environmental advocacy organization, says that some refrigerated containers could stay afloat for months.

Given how little we know about how frequently these types of incidents occur, it is critical for boaters to ensure that their vessels are equipped with communication and navigational tools that will help them identify hazards before it's too late. Having a marine transducer, chartplotter and marine GPS on board can be a lifesaver for anticipating violent weather, as well as for catching underwater obstructions before they damage your hull.

At ePal, you'll find an enormous selection of these items at discount prices. We also offer free shipping on all U.S. orders, so you can rest assured that the price you're being quoted is what you'll pay. For more information, check out our online store today!

How do marine transducers work?

Having a marine transducer can be a huge help when your boating in unfamiliar waters, but many sailors, fishermen and other marine professionals don't actually know how these devices work. Before you purchase any marine equipment, it's a good idea to learn the basic function of the device and how it can make your life easier, so that you make a more informed decision about which transducer is right for you.

Inside each transducer is a small object called a piezoceramic disc, also referred to as an element. The boat will apply electric voltage to the element, causing it to vibrate at a particular frequency. Those vibrations create sound pressure waves, which are sent through the water in a cone-shaped beacon. As the waves travel through the ocean, they'll hit objects such as a fish or a rock on the bottom of the ocean and either reflect back to the boat or be scattered off into the water.

The sound waves that get back to the boat can cause small distortions in the shape of the element, thus affecting the voltage that is being applied to it. The transducer can interpret these voltages to determine the shape and size of the objects that the sound waves hit when they were reflected back to the hull of the ship. Your transducer judges depths by calculating the amount of time it took for the sound waves to leave and return back to the boat.

While there is a great variety of transducers available from companies such as Raymarine, Garmin and Furuno, at a basic level this is how they all operate. To find out more about the capabilities that a transducer provides its user, check out ePal's inventory today!

A brief guide to picking boating shoes

Perhaps one of the least discussed boat accessories is footwear, but don't let that fool you: Choosing the right pair of shoes for your boating adventures, whether you're a recreational sailor or a commercial fisherman, is crucial. Yet many boaters will leave shore in a pair of shoes that aren't meant for the conditions they'll be dealing with at sea or on the lake. This not only will make the experience more difficult but it could also make it more dangerous.

Here are some things to keep in mind when selecting a pair of boating shoes:

  • Accessibility: Sometimes you need to be able to slip your feet into your shoes immediately in case of emergencies. 
  • Drainage: Your shoes are going to get wet. The trick isn't so much to find a pair of shoes that keep your feet completely dry, but to find a pair that drains well enough so that it doesn't feel like you're in a puddle with each step.
  • Dry Time: This is more of a consideration if you're on your boat every day, but it's important to have a pair of shoes that can dry out in a couple of hours.
  • Traction: Slipping and falling on your boat, particularly if you're dealing with rough seas or poor weather, can be dangerous. Your boat shoes should have superb traction so that you can move quickly across your deck without fear of losing your balance and footing.

At ePal we carry a wide selection of boat parts, accessories and apparel that will make your voyages more enjoyable and safer. Not only do we have the best prices, we also offer free shipping on all U.S. sales, as well as flat rates for expedited shipping. Check out our site today!

Louisiana experiences record low boating deaths in 2013

Louisiana set a record for the lowest number of boating deaths in a year in 2013, experiencing only 13 total. Considering that the state has had an average of 25 boating deaths per year since 2010, this is a remarkable achievement.

The Associated Press reports that the previous low was 19, set in 1992. The all-time high is 79 in 1974.

The data, which was provided by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries' Enforcement Division's Boating Safety Program, is good news for the boating industry in the Bayou State, given the thousands of citizens who pilot boats on a daily basis. The Department is crediting the improved safety conditions to mandatory boat education courses that are required for anyone born after January 1, 1984.

In order to continue this trend of improved safety, it's important for boaters to avail themselves of communications and navigation technology that makes it much easier to identify nearby vessels and avoid collisions. Some of the equipment that every boater should have on board before they leave the dock includes:

  • Marine VHF: In order to communicate with emergency personnel on land, it's important for boaters to have a marine radio that puts out a strong signal. Cell phones are often inadequate, particularly when you're on a large body of water.
  • Transducers: Avoiding collisions with underwater obstacles is much easier if you have a transducer that can provide accurate readings of the surface underneath your boat.

If you're looking to add these items to your equipment inventory, or you need to replace the ones you have, your best source for marine equipment is ePal!

Garmin develops new vessel integration technology

One of the predominant trends in marine GPS technology is the consolidation of various navigation and communication equipment into one component. This allows boaters more control and freedom in piloting their vessel, and makes the process of monitoring location, engine condition and other parameters more intuitive.

In keeping with this trend, Garmin has just announced that it has partnered with Mastervolt, manufacturers of CZone intelligent technology, to create an integrated system with a simplified interface. This will give pilots quicker access to their boat's controls, thus providing a more straightforward, streamlined method for steering the vehicle so that the driver can focus on other aspects of their trip, not just making sure their boat works.

"Today, with recreational time being limited, boaters and their families do not want to worry about the operation of the boat," G.R. Schrotenboer, Mastervolt Global Business Leader, said in a press release. "They want to turn the key or touch a button and go have fun on the water. Our CZone technology offers the kind of intuitive operation that is common in one's home or car, providing complete control of the vessel's environment with a single touch."

As boaters begin to accumulate more system components in their GPS, communication and monitoring systems, it becomes difficult to keep an eye on all of these parts at once. This increases the likelihood that something can go wrong during a trip. However, as this announcement would indicate, boat part manufacturers are trying to solve this problem by bringing all of a vessel's various parts together into one unified interface, making boat travel safer and more fun.

If you're interested in finding out more about the latest Garmin GPS technology, make sure to check out the ePal online store today!

Careful research required before purchasing an extended warranty for boats

For most boat owners, their vessel is their most valuable possession outside of the house or car. As a result, it's tempting for these individuals to consider purchasing an extended warranty that will cover engine and hull repairs for several years after they buy the vehicle. If you're in the market for a new boat you may be wondering if these warranty agreements are worth the investment, or are they loaded with caveats that make them almost useless when you need them the most?

The answer is that it depends. The value of your warranty is dictated by a number of factors:

  • Deductibles: Higher deductibles typically mean that you get less coverage, though the premium or cost for your warranty will be lower. It also means that you'll be paying more out-of-pocket expenses for any repairs.
  • Overlap with manufacturer's warranty: There's no point in purchasing an extended warranty that coincides with your manufacturer warranty, unless the former provides coverage for certain fixes that the latter does not.
  • Transferability: If you ever sell your boat, it'll fetch a higher price if it's under warranty.

As BoatUS.com points out, many of the problems that are covered by extended warranties will show up within the time period of the manufacturer's warranty. It may be a bigger gamble than it's worth to put down the money for an extended warranty if you won't end up using it.

It's also important to remember that these warranties typically don't cover your chartplotter and other electronic items that you add to your boat after you buy it. However, you can rest assured that when you purchase these components from ePal, they come with manufacturers warranties, as well as our 30 day return policy.

Yacht & Brokerage Show in Miami Beach underway

The Yacht & Brokerage Show (YBS) is underway in Miami Beach, Florida, and will run through February 17. While the boating industry puts on hundreds of trade shows throughout the year, this is by far one of the biggest. Manufacturers, brokers, marine accessories retailers and other industry professionals will be congregating at Collins Avenue to see the latest yachting models and technology. In addition, there will be tons of food vendors and live entertainment.

Brokers look forward to the YBS every year for one simple reason: Customers actually purchase boats. While other events might showcase a new model from big time manufacturers, very few visitors actually consider buying a new vessel. That's not the case with YBS.

"[It's] always been a good show," James Henderson, president and CEO for the Americas at Ferretti Group, told Trade Only Today. "I think typically we tend to write more deals [than at other shows]. A lot of people say that. I have no idea why that is, but I think you tend to hear of and see more contracts, partly because … in February people are thinking summer's not so far away."

Those who are selling boats at the show are hoping for a big turnaround after many years of recession that have plagued the industry. Typically boat purchases are the first to get hit by economic downturns, so it's been a rough couple years for the industry as a whole.

If you head to Miami and decide to purchase a new boat, or you're just going to see what's available, we recommend checking out ePal's wide inventory of marine electronics and accessories, which will help you get more out of your vessel's communications and navigational systems.

3 tips for keeping your kids safe on your boat

There are few pleasures like sharing a boat ride with your whole family, but before you do it's important to make sure they're safe.

Yachting Magazine has a great safety guide for parents who will be boating with their kids. Here are a few of their most important points:

  • Always set an example: If you want your kids to take safety seriously when they're on your boat, make sure that you set an example by wearing a life vest when necessary. Your children will take these procedures more seriously if they see that you're adhering to them.
  • Make sure your life vests fit: There are tons of manufacturers now, many of which we carry at ePal, that make life jackets in just about every size, and they're typically very comfortable. They're also much less likely to fall off if you or your children fall into the water. A life jacket that is too big could slide off.
  • Turn the engine off when passengers are in the water: Particularly if you have an outboard motor, it's important to make sure the propeller isn't spinning when people are in the water swimming. It also prevents the boat from accidentally running over a swimmer.

If you've recently purchased a boat and need to stock it with safety equipment, or you need to replace the marine supplies that you already have, your best source for these items is ePal. We carry a wide selection of personal flotation devices from many of the best brands, including Mustang, First Watch and Full Throttle, all at the best prices you'll find on the web. 

Brokerage sales decline in new year

Yacht brokers are reporting that January sales of boats were down by about 5 percent year-over-year, according to TradeOnlyToday.com. The data was reported to SoldBoats.com, a proprietary database used by brokers to monitor industrywide sales. Overall, 1,635 boats changed owners in January, lower than last year's total of 1,728.

Much of the decline was in the category of boats under 26 feet, which saw a decrease in sales of 21 percent. However, the industry is still looking much healthier now than it did just a few years ago. In the past five years, the monthly average for boats changing hands was 1,559, so January 2014 was still well above the norm.

Additionally, despite the decline in the number of boats that were sold, the actual revenue generated from those sales was 2 percent higher than last year, at $242.7 million.

The industry is hoping that as the economy improves and people feel more secure in their jobs and incomes, that more boaters will think about investing in a new vessel. Recreational vehicles such as boats and RVs tend to be the first purchases that get nixed during hard times. But given the falling unemployment rate and rising equity markets, it seems as though the worst days for the boat sales industry are behind it.

If you've decided you'd rather hold on to your yacht rather than trying to upgrade to a newer one, you may want to consider replacing some of your components with state of the art models. For example, if your GPS unit is starting to show its age, we recommend checking out ePal's inventory of the latest Garmin marine electronics. This simple upgrade can make a huge difference in your boat's navigational system!

A brief guide to judging water depth visually

One of the most important marine instruments you can have on board is a depth finder, whether it's an advanced transducer or similar device. Sometimes it's an independent instrument and other times a part of your chartplotter or GPS. In any case, these devices help you figure out the clearance between the end of your keel and the bottom of the body of water where you're boating.

But depth finders and transducers can only help you so much. They can't tell you how deep the water is a quarter mile in front your bow or off to the side. They also don't necessarily give you an accurate reading if the water is too deep. It all depends on the power of the sonar beam they're transmitting.

At Sail Magazine, writer Connie McBride has a good rhyme that is easy to remember and can help you better judge water depths visually:

Brown, brown, run aground
White, white, you just might
Green, green, in between
Blue, blue, sail on through

Simply put, when the water in front of you is a light brown color, it's best to avoid it in the event that you scrape your hull or run aground. White-colored water could mean that there is sand reflecting sunlight back to the surface, though it may be deep enough that you don't have to worry about hitting anything. Green water typically indicates that there is grass on the surface, but it could still be deep enough that you can sail over it safely. Blue water means you're good to go!

With a more powerful marine transducer, you can judge depths more effectively and avoid running aground. Shop at ePal today for our latest deals on tranducers and other equipment!